“There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now” – James Baldwin, 1961


In February, as we celebrate African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia, African Nova Scotian Affairs will distribute brief narratives about distinguished people both locally and from around the world. The theme for 2017 is “Passing the Torch…African Nova Scotians and the Next 150” and it honours past and present legacies of African Nova Scotians while looking forward to future greatness


We hope that you will be inspired by the accomplishments of these individuals and invite you to participate in the diverse array of events taking place across the province throughout February and the months to come:


Marjorie Turner-Bailey (1947 to present)

Born in the small town of Lockeport, Nova Scotia, sprinter Marjorie Turner-Bailey is known for her international success in track and field. She participated in the Pan-American Games in Mexico, the Olympics in Montreal, and several Commonwealth Games. She won two bronze medals in the 1975 Pan-American Games and a silver medal in the 4x100 relay at the 1978 Commonwealth Games. After the 1978 Games, she retired from athletics.


Turner-Bailey has served as a board member of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown. This centre was central for the research phase of Lawrence Hill’s acclaimed novel The Book of Negroes. Turner-Bailey was personally involved in the production of the film version of the novel, which was released in 2015 as a six-part miniseries.


Maxine Tynes (1949–2011)

A descendant of Black Loyalists, Maxine Tynes wrote poetry that centered around black and female identity. Her poems are steeped in the oral traditions of her community and the history of her people. Tynes is most remembered for her bestselling book Borrowed Beauty, which is a collection of some of her most compelling and intense poetry. In her work, Tynes uses strong imagery and rhythm to blend the personal and the political. For example, in the poem “The Woman I Am in My Dreams” Tynes tries to break free of the social norms that restrict her self-image, and self-esteem takes on a political as well as a personal meaning. Much has been said about the intensity of her work, but lines that are as direct as those in “Mirrors” seem to speak for themselves.

Aside from her writing, Tynes was active in the community of Dartmouth. She taught English at Cole Harbour District High School and Auburn Drive High school for 31 years. From 1986 to 1994 was the first black woman to sit on the Dalhousie Board of Governors. Between writing and teaching, she freelanced for CBC Radio. Tynes always emphasized her strong ties to Dartmouth. For that and for her contribution to literature, the Alderney Gate Library named the “Maxine Tynes Room” after her.


Dr. Ernest Waddell (1896–1953)

Born in Trinidad at the turn of the century, Ernest Waddell hoped to make something of his life in North America. He was the brightest of a large family and, at 26, he moved off the island to find his fortune. He first moved to New York in 1923 with his young family, but could not find steady employment. In 1928, he enrolled in Dalhousie University to study medicine and his family followed him in 1933. Initially, he found the stigmatizing atmosphere of Halifax unpleasant. He was an outsider in both the black and white communities because of his race and because he was from a foreign country.

Despite these setbacks, Waddell found success in his field by doing house calls in the city’s Chinese community and in Africville. He was one of the first doctors to visit Africville, and as time went on he became a social advocate for this Black Nova Scotian community. He lobbied the city to build essential infrastructure and provide basic amenities in Africville. At the time, houses in Africville did not have plumbing or heating, and were without potable water.

Unfortunately, these amenities were never provided. In the 1960s, Africville’s lack of amenities was used as an excuse to demolish it and forcibly remove its inhabitants. But Waddell didn’t live to see any of that. He died of a heart attack at the age of 57. Waddell is an important figure to consider when thinking about the history of Black Nova Scotian professionals, the lives of Black Nova Scotian immigrants, and the Canadian Civil Rights movement.